I can still recall sitting in my first grade class around March 1, listening to our teacher tell us about the old proverb, “March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb.”  I’m not sure why that memory stands out to me.  Come to think of it, I haven’t really heard that phrase much since then.  If you’re not familiar, it refers to the weather as perhaps being more aggressive in the beginning of March- chilly and stormy, and calm and pleasant at the end.  According to The Farmer’s Almanac, this proverb may reflect the ancestral belief that there should be balance in weather and in life- or at least one would hope that there might be.

Just a little past midnight on March 3, 2020 a tumultuous tornado ripped through North and East Nashville like a lion, and then continued its destructive force eastward.  Much of the city, myself included, was caught off guard and watched the news in disbelief that something so devastating had come like a thief in the night, robbing Nashville of its joy.  In the week that followed, the people came together to help restore what had been lost in “Nashville Strong” style, but a week was all that we had.

Then enter COVID-19, making its way to Tennessee calling us all to stay home and practice social distancing.  People who had just lost their homes and all of their belongings now were being expected to heal without hugs, and the volunteers had to keep their distance.  Meanwhile, the shelves at the grocery stores emptied because whatever hadn’t been donated to help tornado victims got snatched up as many people panicked about not having enough. Y’all, Nashville is experiencing some complex trauma after being hit by these two storms in the month of March!

As a therapist observing all of this, and living in the shared uncertainty of the course of this pandemic, it’s overwhelming to be faced with the challenge of helping others to navigate something of this magnitude when none of us have a clear map.  Then I came across this article from the Harvard Business Journal featuring David Kessler, the nation’s leading expert on grief. Grief. Putting that name on this experience helped me to make sense of this process.  It’s hard to list all of the losses that people are experiencing: social and family gatherings, graduations, weddings, school, and perhaps even the loss of a loved one.  We all are in a state of collective grief, sharing the loss of normal.  Kessler also talks about anticipatory grief, which is your mind going to the future and anticipating a horrible loss.  If you find yourself struggling with this type of grief, the best thing that you can do is to practice mindfulness of the present moment by breathing deeply, naming things that you see in the room, and acknowledging that you are okay in this moment.  Please take the time to read the article to find more perspective on coping with uncertainty.

So as March has come to a close, and I reflect on the proverb “in like a lion and out like a lamb,” I initially wanted to scoff at it due to the COVID-19 crisis.  But to give some credit, at the end of the month the sun did shine more brightly, the flowers began to bloom and the trees started budding; all revealing the softer and gentler side of spring.  Nature did bring us some balance amidst this crazy imbalance in the world.  As I reflect more deeply on the state of humankind, perhaps we too are becoming more like vulnerable lambs looking for a shepherd when everything feels unclear and uncertain.  According to popular researcher and speaker Brene Brown, there is power in vulnerability because it connects us to ourselves and others while nurturing courage, compassion and creativity.  Watch her TED Talk here.  I believe that it connects us to God as well, as we acknowledge our need and search for meaning.  Connecting to others might look a little different right now as we rely on the gifts of technology, but we can use those gifts for good.  And as we find balance in solitude away from screens, we can connect more deeply to ourselves and God.  So just maybe this time of retreat from normal life can be a time of healing if we can find the courage to embrace our vulnerability and allow our souls to be shepherded.

Click here to see an excellent article from Dr. Eileen Feliciano, a psychologist in New York State who was kind enough to share her 25 tips for mental health and wellness during COVID-19.

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